This recital was the only UK concert by the famous Juilliard String Quartet after a jaw-dropping April with concerts in the USA, Turkey, Germany and Denmark. Next stop USA.
Well-honed Haydn Op 54 No 1 took some time to be comfortable with the Town Hall’s gentle resonance as ends of downward phrases from new first violinist, Joseph Lin, were constantly being obscured. Gentle underlying semiquavers were a sensitive foil to some lovely violin solos in the allegretto. Haydn unpredictably teases the imagination at times and is a delight throughout.
Passion for a 23year old maiden was the driving force for Janacek’s Quartet No 1. Jealousy, love, compassion, sadness. All raw emotions are in this heartfelt music with the composer’s thumbprint in every bar, icy ponticello tremolos contrasting with strong rhythmic declarations.
Stimulating and exciting, to heart-rending sadness from all in the third movement and finally forgiveness from lower strings for the tragic dying victim. Irritating audible sniffs from Mr Lin before every tutti entry got in the way of the music though, as did occasional unconvincing viola intonation.
Quartet No 13 Op 130 is show-piece Beethoven beginning with seamless velvet throughout. The German Dance was without proper flow with short bulging phrases sounding contrived. Likewise the Cavatina hinted at rubato and portamento plus intriguingly strung–out ornaments. All in all, a gutsy performance however, culminating in the Grosse Fugue Op 133 a truly gargantuan work: hectic, weighty and somewhat lacking in clarity. More effective for full strings rather than a quartet, one suspects, but a truly brave effort nevertheless.